I've been trying to figure out why a story reaches some people but not others. Why you and I could both read the same story but one loves it and the other says, "Meh. It was okay."
Reading a book forces you into another character's head, and they in turn are in our heads, asking us the same questions we ask them. WHY do you believe that? Why would you do that? What on earth are you thinking?
Trying on these characters changes us, and that's part of the pleasure of reading. It's safe. I can follow along with Frodo as he approaches Mount Doom, trying on his courage and determination to do what is right without actually wrestling Gollum for the ring.
Sometimes we'll recognize a character as a kindred spirit. Other characters are more...challenging. Anne Shirley is both to me. When she's yelling at Rachel Cuthbert or climbing a roof to walk the ridgepole, I shrink back into myself. But when she's walking with Matthew in the field or laughing with Gilbert, I'm there, 100%. Why couldn't she just realize she loved Gilbert? Seriously!
I read "Twenties Girl" by Sophie Kinsella a few months back, and it was awful! The MC did the craziest things-like walking into a business meeting and asking a strange man out on a date simply because her Grandmother's flapper ghost wouldn't leave her alone. I was mortified with her! It was brilliant!
I think this is why it's so important to read widely, especially in genre writing. We have to know what emotions readers are looking for. Do they want to be thrilled? Do they want to fall in love? Do they want to live in another world for a while, experience another culture? Do they want to be uncomfortable?
Who would want to be uncomfortable? Lots of people. My hubby and I started watching The Office recently, and cringe through every episode. Steve Carrell gets most of his laughs by making the audience glad not to be him.
Where will your characters go? Will they drag your readers along or entice them?
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